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Norwegian official applauds Apple-EMI deal, asks others to follow

An advisor to the Norwegian Consumer Council, a group that has been pushing Apple to drop its digital rights management (DRM) scheme on iTunes tracks, is applauding the firm's joint announcement with EMI on Monday and encouraging other industry players to follow suit.

"It's with great interest [that] I've listened to the webcast from EMI and Apple today," Torgeir Waterhouse, a senior advisor to the Norwegian Consumer Council, told MacNN. "No matter how the digital music market develops, today will always stand out a very important date, the day when two of the really big market players finally took responsibility that follows from the position and made an interoperable solution available to consumers."

The Norwegian council last June lodged a formal complaint with the Consumer Ombudsman, a government representative, arguing that Apple iTunes terms of service violates Section 9a of the country's Marketing Control Act. It further alleged that iTunes' digital right management violated consumer protection laws.

In his letter to MacNN on Monday, Waterhouse called on other music labels to follow suit, encouraging them to offer DRM-free music for the sake of consumers. "I especially call on the three other mayors to [seize] the moment and show that [they are] able to take on the responsibility as some of the most important distributors of culture and offer music without DRM or DRM that offers the consumers 100 percent interoperability," he wrote.

The senior advisor also asked the movie industry to take heed of EMI's important step, as well as any company in other cultural sectors that are slowly entering the download service market. "If they want the respect and business of [the] consumer they also need to offer up a fair deal which among other elements includes true interoperability [with] the complete absence of lock-in technology," he wrote.

However, while Waterhouse said it's encouraging to see EMI and Apple take the important first step, he noted that Apple is still refusing to let the Ombudsman release its reply regarding what actions it plans to take to make sure iTunes complies with Norwegian law. The official stressed that one of the key factors to achieve a well functioning information society is for the debate and steps toward it to be open to the public —the very same public that is the basis for a successful transition toward the digital information society.

Waterhouse also warned that Apple is still required to abide by Norway's September deadline, which calls upon additional measures to ensure iTunes is legally operating within that country in the name of fairness on behalf of consumers.

"It's important to note that this move does not take the heat off iTunes for the end of September deadline. By the end of September [Apple] needs to alter the terms of service and DRM used in the iTunes Music Store to provide a fair deal to the consumers who legally buy music," he wrote. "Still, this move by EMI and Apple today should serve as proof that it really is possible to fix the problems the industry has chosen to introduce with DRM."

"Today both EMI and Apple have proven that they're willing and able to start their part of the job —they really deserve a round of applause for the important step they've taken today," Waterhouse continued. "We're now calling on all other relevant market players and governments to be equally responsible and solution oriented and take the similar and first important steps themselves."